Archives for category: Ethics


Hiding from the rioters in a secret location away from the Capitol, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) appealed to Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) phoned Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter.


And Kellyanne Conway, a longtime Trump confidante and former White House senior adviser, called an aide who she knew was standing at the president’s side.


But as senators and House members trapped inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday begged for immediate help during the siege, they struggled to get through to the president, who — safely ensconced in the West Wing — was too busy watching fiery TV images of the crisis unfolding around them to act or even bother to hear their pleas.
“

He was hard to reach, and you know why? Because it was live TV,” said one close Trump adviser. “If it’s TiVo, he just hits pause and takes the calls. If it’s live TV, he watches it, and he was just watching it all unfold.”


Even as he did so, Trump did not move to act. And the message from those around him — that he needed to call off the angry mob he had egged on just hours earlier, or lives could be lost — was one to which he was not initially receptive.


“It took him awhile to appreciate the gravity of the situation,” Graham said in an interview. “The president saw these people as allies in his journey and sympathetic to the idea that the election was stolen.”


Trump ultimately — and begrudgingly — urged his supporters to “go home in peace.” But the six hours between when the Capitol was breached shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon and when it was finally declared secure around 8 p.m. that evening reveal a president paralyzed — more passive viewer than resolute leader, repeatedly failing to perform even the basic duties of his job.




Capitol Police were unable to stop a breach of the Capitol.


The man who vowed to be a president of law and order failed to enforce the law or restore order. The man who has always seen himself as the protector of uniformed police sat idly by as Capitol Police officers were outnumbered, outmaneuvered, trampled on — and in one case, killed. And the man who had long craved the power of the presidency abdicated many of the responsibilities of the commander in chief.


The episode in which Trump supporters rose up against their own government, leaving five people dead, will be central to any impeachment proceedings, critical to federal prosecutors considering incitement charges against him or his family, and a dark cornerstone of his presidential legacy.


This portrait of the president as the Capitol was under attack on Jan. 6 is the result of interviews with 15 Trump advisers, members of Congress, GOP officials and other Trump confidants, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to share candid details.




The day began ominously, with a “Save America March” on the Ellipse devoted to perpetuating Trump’s baseless claims that somehow the 2020 election was stolen from him.


Before the president’s remarks around noon, several of his family members addressed the crowd with speeches that all shared a central theme: Fight. Eric Trump, one of the president’s sons, told the crowd that lawmakers needed to “show some fight” and “stand up,” before urging the angry mass to “march on the Capitol today.” Donald Trump Jr., another of the president’s sons, exhorted all “red-blooded, patriotic Americans” to “fight for Trump.”


Backstage, as the president prepared to speak, Laura Branigan’s hit “Gloria” was blared to rev up the crowd, and Trump Jr., in a video he recorded for social media, called the rallygoers “awesome patriots that are sick of the bull—-.” His girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, danced to the song and, clenching her right fist, urged people to “fight.”




The president, too, ended his speech with an exhortation, urging the crowd to give Republicans “the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.”


“So let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue,” he concluded.



Trump, however, did not join the angry crowd surging toward the Capitol. Instead, he returned to the White House, where at 2:24 p.m. he tapped out a furious tweet railing against Vice President Pence, who in a letter earlier in the day had made clear that he planned to fulfill his constitutional duties and certify President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris as the winners of the 2020 electoral college vote.


“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify,” he wrote. “USA demands the truth!”


By then, West Wing staffers monitoring initial videos of the protesters on TV and social media were already worried that the situation was escalating and felt that Trump’s tweet attacking Pence was unhelpful.




Press officials had begun discussing a statement from Trump around 2 p.m., when protesters first breached the Capitol, an official familiar with the discussions said. But they were not authorized to speak on behalf of the president and could only take the matter to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, this person said, adding that “the most infuriating part” of the day was how long it took before Trump finally spoke out.




Around the same time, Trump Jr. headed to the airport for a shuttle flight home to New York. As he waited in an airport lounge to board the plane, the president’s namesake son saw that the rally­goers they had all urged to fight were doing just that, breaching police barricades and laying siege to the Capitol.


An aide called Trump Jr. and suggested he immediately issue a statement urging the rioters to stop. At 2:17 p.m., Trump Jr. hit send on a tweet as he boarded the plane: “This is wrong and not who we are,” he wrote. “Be peaceful and use your 1st Amendment rights, but don’t start acting like the other side. We have a country to save and this doesn’t help anyone.”


But the president himself was busy enjoying the spectacle. Trump watched with interest, buoyed to see that his supporters were fighting so hard on his behalf, one close adviser said.


But if the president didn’t appear to understand the magnitude of the crisis, those in his orbit did. Conway immediately called a close personal aide who she knew was with the president, and said she was adding her name to the chorus of people urging Trump to speak to his supporters. He needed to tell them to stand down and leave the Capitol, she told the aide.


Conway also told the aide that she had received calls from the D.C. mayor’s office asking for help in getting Trump to call up the National Guard.


Ivanka Trump had gone to the Oval Office as soon as the riot became clear, and Graham reached her on her cellphone and implored her for help. “They were all trying to get him to speak out, to tell everyone to leave,” said Graham, referring to the small group of aides with Trump on Wednesday afternoon.




Several Republican members of Congress also called White House aides, begging them to get Trump’s attention and have him call for the violence to end. The lawmakers reiterated that they had been loyal Trump supporters and were even willing to vote against the electoral college results — but were now scared for their lives, officials said.




When the mob first breached the Capitol, coming within mere seconds of entering the Senate chamber, Pence — who was overseeing the electoral certification — was hustled away to a secure location, where he remained for the duration of the siege, despite multiple suggestions from his Secret Service detail that he leave the Capitol, said an official familiar with Pence’s actions that day.
Instead, the vice president fielded calls from congressional leaders furious that the National Guard had not yet been deployed, this official said. Pence, from his secret location in the Capitol, spoke with legislative and military leaders, working to mobilize the soldiers and offering reassurance.


Even as his supporters at the Capitol chanted for Pence to be hanged, Trump never called the vice president to check on him or his family. Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, eventually called the White House to let them know that Pence and his team were okay, after receiving no outreach from the president or anyone else in the White House.
Meanwhile, in the West Wing, a small group of aides — including Ivanka Trump, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and Meadows — was imploring Trump to speak out against the violence. Meadows’s staff had prompted him to go see the president, with one aide telling the chief of staff before he entered the Oval Office, “They are going to kill people.”


Shortly after 2:30 p.m., the group finally persuaded Trump to send a tweet: “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement,” he wrote. “They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!”




But the Twitter missive was insufficient, and the president had not wanted to include the final instruction to “stay peaceful,” according to one person familiar with the discussions.


Less than an hour later, aides persuaded Trump to send a second, slightly more forceful tweet: “I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful,” he wrote. “No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order — respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!”


’You’re very special’


McCarthy did eventually reach Trump, but later told allies that he found the president distracted. So McCarthy repeatedly appeared on television to describe the mayhem, an adviser said, in an effort to explain just how dire the situation was.


McCarthy also called Kushner, who that afternoon was arriving back from a trip to the Middle East. The Secret Service originally warned Kushner that it was unsafe to venture downtown to the White House. McCarthy pleaded with him to persuade Trump to issue a statement for his supporters to leave the Capitol, saying he’d had no luck during his own conversation with Trump, the adviser said. So Kushner headed to the White House.


At one point, Trump worried that the unruly group was frightening GOP lawmakers from doing his bidding and objecting to the election results, an official said.


National security adviser Robert C. O’Brien also began calling members of Congress to ask how he could help. He called Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) around 4 p.m., a Lee spokesman said. In an unlikely twist, Lee had heard from the president earlier — when he accidentally dialed the senator in a bid to reach Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) to discuss overturning the election.




Others were still having trouble getting through to the White House. Speaking on ABC News shortly before 4 p.m. Wednesday, Chris Christie, a GOP former governor of New Jersey, said he’d spent the last 25 minutes trying to reach Trump directly to convey a simple, if urgent, message.


“The president caused this protest to occur; he’s the only one who can make it stop,” Christie said. “The president has to come out and tell his supporters to leave the Capitol grounds and to allow the Congress to do their business peacefully. And anything short of that is an abdication of his responsibility.”
Around this time, the White House was preparing to put out a video address on behalf of the president. They had begun discussing this option earlier but struggled to organize their effort. Biden, meanwhile, stepped forward with remarks that seemed to rise to the occasion: “The scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect the true America, do not represent who we are.”




Trump aides did three takes of the video and chose the most palatable option — despite some West Wing consternation that the president had called the violent protesters “very special.”


“This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people,” Trump said in the video, released shortly after 4 p.m. “We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel. But go home, and go home in peace.”




Amid the chaos, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) had implemented a 6 p.m. curfew for the city, and as darkness fell, the Secret Service told West Wing staff that, save for an essential few, everyone had to leave the White House and go home.


At 6:01 p.m., Trump blasted out yet another tweet, which Twitter quickly deleted and which many in his orbit were particularly furious about, fearing he was further inflaming the still-tense situation.


“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so ­unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” Trump wrote. “Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”


Thirteen minutes later, at 6:14 p.m., a perimeter was finally established around the Capitol. About 8 p.m., more than six hours after the initial breach, the Capitol was declared secure.


The following evening, on Thursday, Trump released another video, the closest advisers say he is likely to come to a concession speech.
“Congress has certified the results: A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20th,” Trump said in the video. “My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly, and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation.”


His calls for healing and reconciliation were more than a day too late, many aides said. Yet as Trump watched the media coverage of his video, he grew angry.
The president said he wished he hadn’t done it, a senior White House official said, because he feared that the calming words made him look weak.

As we learned in the recording of his outrageous conversation with the Georgia Secretary of State, Trump will stop at nothing in his crazed efforts to cling to his office. He has lost interest in governing, but not in ruling. His base believes whatever claptrap he spews. Some theorize that it was Trump who released the recording of the conversation where he bullied Brad Raffensperger and tried to persuade him to “find” enough votes to reverse the results in Georgia. The recording allowed him to get all his nutty conspiracy theories into the public space, magnified by massive coverage. Since Georgia’s electoral votes would not be enough to change the outcome of the election, we can safely assume that Trump had similar conversations with state election officials in other states. He doesn’t seem to understand that the election is over. The votes were counted and recounted. The Electoral College met, and Biden won. The process on January 6 is supposed to be ceremonial not consequential. Trump’s surrogates sued to try to give the Vice-President the power to overturn the duly certified slates of electors and recognize alternate pro-Trump slates instead, but that lawsuit was dismissed in Texas by a federal judge appointed by Trump; when it was appealed to the Federal Appeals Court, a three-judge panel (all appointed by Republican presidents) affirmed the lower court decision to toss out the lawsuit.

However, Politico says that the call was recorded and released by the Georgia Secretary of State, for his own protection. He was burned once before by Lindsay Graham. Let’s give credit where credit is due: Secretary of State Raffensperger, a lifetime Republican, refused to be cowed by Graham; he refused to be cowed by Trump. He stood strong for election integrity, despite the pressure. He is an American hero.

Here is the full recording and transcript.

Politico wrote:

The story of the extraordinary call of a president pushing a top election official to rig the Georgia results was broken by the superb reporting of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Greg Bluestein and the Washington Post’s Amy Gardner, but the backstory is almost as interesting.

It started on Saturday when Trump and his team reached out to talk to Raffensperger, who, according to an adviser, felt he would be unethically pressured by the president. Raffensperger had been here before: In November he accused Trump ally and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham of improperly exhorting him to meddle in the election to help Trump win Georgia. Graham later denied it.

So why not record the call with the president, Raffensperger’s advisers thought, if nothing else for fact-checking purposes. “This is a man who has a history of reinventing history as it occurs,” one of them told Playbook. “So if he’s going to try to dispute anything on the call, it’s nice to have something like this, hard evidence, to dispute whatever he’s claiming about the secretary. Lindsey Graham asked us to throw out legally cast ballots. So yeah, after that call, we decided maybe we should do this.”

The call took place Saturday afternoon. “Mr. President,” announced Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, at the top of the call, “everyone is on the line.” Little did he know. Trump made his ask and did most of the talking for the next hour, trafficking in the same conspiracy theories about election fraud that no court or criminal investigator has found credible. At the end of the call, Trump complains, “What a schmuck I was.”

Raffensperger’s team kept quiet about the call and the recording and waited. The president made the next move, claiming on Sunday morning via Twitter that Raffensperger was “unwilling, or unable, to answer” questions about his baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. “Respectfully, President Trump: What you’re saying is not true,” Raffensperger replied at 10:27 a.m. “The truth will come out.” It wasn’t an empty promise.

Now the best that Trump can hope for is to draw thousands of his rabid, armed supporters to the Capitol to threaten others and to create chaos. This won’t change the outcome of the election, unless Trump invokes the nineteenth-century Insurrection Act and declares martial law.

The Boston Globe published this editorial:

For worried residents of the District of Columbia, President Trump’s flailing efforts to overturn the results of a free and fair election that he lost no longer seem quite so funny. With the prospect of unrest in the nation’s capital when Trump’s loss is formalized on Wednesday, Republicans have run out of excuses for continuing to indulge Trump’s anti-democratic rants.

Not a single state or federal court has accepted the preposterous conspiracy theories floated by Trump and his supporters to explain his loss, ranging from zany stories of North Koreans smuggling ballots into Maine to supposed Sharpie malfunctions in Arizona. No election has been as thoroughly scrutinized as the 2020 vote, and even Trump’s own Justice Department acknowledges it couldn’t find any serious fraud, much less the vast plots of Trump’s imagination.


To their credit, state Republican officials in Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, and other states rejected those fictions. National Republicans, from Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell on down, have (belatedly) also acknowledged Joe Biden as the victor. In fact, the election wasn’t especially close: Democratic candidate Joe Biden won by more than 7 million votes, and with an Electoral College margin identical to Trump’s 2016 victory.Get Today in Opinion in your inboxGlobe Opinion’s must-reads, delivered to you every Sunday-Friday. Enter EmailSign Up

But the president remains immersed in his conspiratorial fantasyland, careening from one delusional idea to another, apparently in hopes that one fringe theory will finally pay off, a deus ex whackina that changes the ending of the 2020 election.

And on Wednesday, when Congress meets to formally certify Biden’s victory, Trump has called for his supporters to descend on Washington for a protest he said would be “wild.”

Of course, protesting is any American’s right. But especially considering the way the last gathering of Trump supporters in Washington descended into violence, lawmakers need to stop giving oxygen to his efforts and firmly reject expected challenges to the vote-certifying on Wednesday. Trump’s fellow Republicans have mostly indulged him by treating his complaints as plausibly legitimate. But that’s only emboldened what would otherwise be a crackpot fringe. By doing so, they’re risking a greater likelihood of trouble on the streets of Washington in the short term, and more lasting damage to trust in democracy in the long term.



Certifying an election is a ministerial job, not a policy decision; it’s not Congress’s job on Wednesday to say whether they like the results of an election or the way that states conducted their votes. Still, if even a single House member and a single senator object to a state’s electoral votes, it triggers a mandatory two-hour debate in Congress and then a vote on whether to accept the state’s votes. As of Saturday, eleven GOP senators and senators-elect had pledged to join House members in objecting to some states’ electoral votes. Trump and his supporters had been pushing members of Congress to object to states Biden won, and demanding that Vice President Mike Pence — who will preside over the count in a ceremonial capacity — switch Biden states to Trump, which he does not have the power to do. (In another dead-end lawsuit, some GOP lawmakers tried to change the law dating back to the 19th century to give Pence the authority to override voters.)

Seeking to avoid a debacle, McConnell lobbied Republican senators not to raise objections to Biden’s victories, apparently unsuccessfully. Meanwhile, according to a top aide, Pence supports the GOP lawmakers’ egregious plan to legitimize the president’s conspiracy theories on the floor of Congress.

Ever since election day, Republicans have generally defended Trump’s challenges to the outcome as within his legal rights. Likewise, insisting on a floor debate on individual states’ presidential votes is perfectly legal. But what is legally permissible and what is right for a polarized and frazzled country aren’t the same.

The country needs to turn the page not just on Trump, but also the toxic brand of conspiracism that he’s mainstreamed into American politics. That won’t be easy. But members of Congress ought to do their part by publicly rejecting Trump’s conspiracy-laced demands to subvert the electoral count, and recognizing Biden’s clear victory. Those who do not don’t deserve to be in public office in a democracy.

So you thought the election was over after Joe Biden won the vote of the Electoral College on December 14, as predicted, by 306-232. And perhaps you thought it was over when Mitch McConnell finally congratulated Biden after the Electoral College voted and called him the President-Elect.

But: Trump is continuing his hapless campaign to reverse the election, despite the fact that his claims of fraud were rejected more than 50 times in state and federal courts and twice by the Supreme Court. Stephen Miller said that the election was not finished, that several states had prepared their own slates of Trump electors who would take their case to Congress, and that the decision about the presidency would not be finished until January 20, Inauguration Day. George Conway of the Lincoln Project told Anderson Cooper on CNN that Trump was behaving as he is for three reasons: 1) he is delusional; 2) he is scamming his followers by raising money for himself (whoever heard of a billionaire appealing for $5?); 3) he is malevolent.

Michael Gerson wrote in the Washington Post about the hypocrisy of certain rightwing “leaders” who support Trump’s ridiculous claim that the election was “stolen.”

Gerson wrote about the assault on democracy by conservative leaders, who are enabling Trump’s delusional behavior:

“It was stolen,” said conservative luminary William Bennett on a recent podcast. “The election was stolen.”


In a Dec. 10 open letter, a group of conservative stalwarts — including activist Gary Bauer, former senator and former president of the Heritage Foundation James DeMint, and head of the Family Research Council Tony Perkins — alleged that “President Donald J. Trump is the lawful winner of the presidential election.” They called on state legislators in battleground states to “appoint clean slates of electors to the Electoral College to support President Trump” and urged the House and Senate to reject competing slates reflecting the actual vote.


For some of us, watching prominent conservatives turn against rationality and democracy is not just disappointing; it is disorienting...

The intellectual bankruptcy and moral hypocrisy of many conservative leaders is stunning. People who claimed to favor limited government now applaud Trump’s use of the executive branch to undermine an election. A similar attempt by Barack Obama would have brought comparisons to Fidel Castro. People who talked endlessly about respecting the Constitution affirm absurd slanders against the constitutional order. People who claimed to be patriots now spread false claims about their country’s fundamental corruption. People who talked of honoring the rule of law now jerk and gyrate according to the whims of a lawless leader.

These conservative leaders no longer deserve the assumption of sincerity. They are spreading conspiratorial lies so unlikely and irrational, they must know them to be lies.

Gerson questions their motives for their immoral claims. Is it cynicism? Fear? A will to power? Why accept blatant lies? Why attack the foundation of democracy, which is free and fair elections? Why defend a would-be tyrant?

Perhaps these conservative leaders view democracy as a secondary concern, compared with the broader crisis of Western civilization. Maybe resisting the impending arrival of cultural and economic Marxism requires conservatives to use whatever means are necessary — including the invalidation of a valid election.
This justification — “by any means necessary” — may be the least conservative arrangement of letters in the English language.

Traditional conservatives have regarded such ideas as the path to tyranny, the highway to the guillotine. This approach assumes an emergency that does not actually exist. Are the barbarian hordes really arriving under the brutal, pitiless direction of . . . Joe Biden? Will the rescue of civilization from decadence really be accomplished under the courageous moral leadership of . . . Donald Trump?


Conservatism is supposed to produce the best of citizens — lawful, loyal and respectful of the Constitution. In some quarters, it is now producing the worst — fractious, resentful and cynical. A large portion of the responsibility rests on conservative leaders, who have sold their convictions cheap.

Arthur Camins has had a fruitful career as a teacher, science educator, and technology expert. He writes here about the kind of education he hopes his grandchildren will have.

He begins:

Persistent inequity and underfunding, especially after decades of emphasis on test-based accountability and privatization, largely unopposed increases in racial and socioeconomic segregation, and four years of leadership by an active opponent of public education bring us to a moment of choice for K-12 public education in the United States: Change or give up on the needs of most of America’s children.

I usually write what I hope are persuasive essays about education policy and other social justice issues. However, the divisiveness of the last election demonstrates that we can’t argue or campaign our way to lasting fundamental change through presidential elections.  The change we need begins with building relationships through shared multiracial conversation and struggle.  

Today, I offer my hopes for my two grandchildren and the rest of the children with whom they will grow up and live as adults. Maybe these can be conversation starters with others about their own hopes.  That is what I think we need to do so that we can work together to push for our hopes for America’s children in the coming years no matter who serves as America’s chief education officer.  

I hope they will go to schools where they and their classmates are cared for, known, valued, and respected.

I hope they will experience and learn empathy and respect and that their circleextends across our great diversity to encompass all people.

Please read the rest of the article.

What are your hopes and dreams for your children?

A federal investigation of Gulen charters in Illinois concluded with a large fine. Gulen charters are associated with the Turkish Imam Fethullah Gulen, who lives in seclusion in Pennsylvania. Gulen charter schools can be recognized by the dominant presence of Turkish people in the board and the staff. In the past, they have been criticized for steering contracts to Turkish-owned firms, regardless of whether they are the low bidder.

The article, written by veteran reporters Dan Mihapoulos and Sarah Karp, describes the conclusion of a lengthy federal investigation.

A politically connected charter school chain based in the Chicago area has agreed to pay $4.5 million to end a long-running federal corruption investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Concept Schools Inc. — which has four publicly-financed campuses in Chicago and dozens of other charter schools in the Midwest — allegedly engaged in a bid-rigging scheme to steer federally funded technology contracts to insiders.

The costly, civil settlement with the government comes more than six years after federal agents raided the charter operator’s northwest suburban offices and other sites connected to Concept in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

In a statement this week, the Justice Department alleged Concept officials violated the federal False Claims Act “by engaging in non-competitive bidding practices” when they awarded contracts funded with taxpayer dollars from the government’s E-rate program. Through the program, the government subsidizes internet access at “needy public schools,” officials said.

“Today’s settlement demonstrates our continuing vigilance to ensure that those doing business with the government do not engage in anticompetitive conduct,” said Jeffrey Bossert, the acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Government contractors and schools that seek to profit at the expense of taxpayers will face serious consequences.”

Concept has denied wrongdoing. The nonprofit organization is based in Schaumburg and runs 30 taxpayer-financed charter schools in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana and Ohio.

Documents show all of Concept’s revenues come from managing taxpayer-funded schools.

Chicago Public Schools officials — who approved and oversee two Concept campuses in the city — are set to provide about $17 million for those schools this year. The two other Concept-run schools in Chicago are regulated by the state, which is giving them another $22 million for the current year.

The four schools in Chicago, in turn, pay a total of $3.8 million a year to Concept in management fees, records show...

The federal corruption probe came into public view in June 2014, when agents raided Concept’s headquarters at the time in Des Plaines and the Chicago Math and Science Academy, in the Rogers Park neighborhood.

Court records show authorities launched the raids because they suspected a long-running “scheme to defraud a federal program.” The feds said at the time that Concept funneled about $5 million in federal grant funds to insiders and “away from the charter schools,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

In announcing the settlement, the Justice Department accused Concept of giving its E-rate business to “chosen vendors without a meaningful, fair and open bidding process” and alleged the charter operator paid those vendors “higher prices than those approved by the [federal government] for equipment with the same functionality.”

And some of the equipment the federal government paid Concept for was “discovered missing,” the Justice Department said.

But in a statement last week, Concept officials sought to portray the settlement as an exoneration, because the probe did not result in criminal charges. They pointed out that in its press release on the settlement, the Justice Department said the “claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability…”

Concept officials also said they had been the subject of unfair allegations of wrongdoing from “foreign actors.” Although the statement from the charter operator did not specify what foreign critics they were referring to, the charter chain run by Turkish immigrants has faced criticism from the government of their homeland for several years.

In a civil case in federal court in Chicago in August, the Turkish government sought information about Concept and a long list of “relevant individuals and entities.”

Turkey says Concept and other charter school networks across the U.S. “were created to siphon public, taxpayer funds away from the education of children in order to finance the international political activities of Fethullah Gulen, an exiled Turkish cleric residing in the State of Pennsylvania.”

Gulen once was a staunch supporter of Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But the two men have become bitter enemies, with Erdogan pressing the U.S. to extradite Gulen. Erdogan has accused Gulen of orchestrating a failed coup against him in 2016.

According to the court filing here, Turkey “has initiated an investigation within its own borders to determine whether the proceeds derived from these illegal activities in the United States are being unlawfully transported and transmitted to individuals in Turkey in violation of Turkish criminal law, including international money laundering and fraud…”

Concept also has connections to one of the most powerful politicians in Illinois — state House Speaker and Democratic Party Chairman Michael Madigan of Chicago…

The speaker, his wife Shirley and other Madigan allies repeatedly travelled in Turkey as guests of a Gulen-led foundation and other Turkish groups in Chicago.

According to economic-interest statements he filed with the state, Michael Madigan made four trips to Turkey from 2009 through 2012 — before Gulen fell out with Erdogan.

This is a longer version of same article with details about Missouri Gulen schools.

https://chicago.suntimes.com/2020/11/6/21552520/concept-schools-charter-school-chain-investigation-settlement


Donald Trump, as everyone knows, got the best of socialized medicine when he was hospitalized at Walter Reed. He received drugs not available to the general public. One, in particular, was effective, apparently, and he called it a “miracle cure.” It is not currently available to the public; it has not yet been approved by the FDA. But if it is approved, the problems of availability, affordability, and distribution are immense, https://www.wired.com/story/trumps-miracle-cure-for-covid-is-a-logistical-nightmare/as described in this article in Wired.

It’s likely that the Food and Drug Administration will authorize these therapies for emergency use any day now. Before that happens, though, three simple questions must be answered if we’re to avoid turmoil and confusion: Who will be eligible to receive these treatments and have access to them? Where will the therapies be administered? And how muchwill they cost?

No one, certainly not Trump, has figured out the answers to these questions.

Arthur Camins, lifelong educators, knows that teachers can’t change what happens in the next few months, other than by casting their votes. But they can rebuild the foundation of our society by teaching these three things: empathy, ethics, and evidence.

He writes:

My driving force has always been a core assumption: What happens in classrooms has a significant influence on how students think and behave when they emerge into adulthood, and hence when they vote and interact with one another.

I hope students grow up to treat everyone with dignity and respect. I hope they develop the tools to make sense of the natural and social environments in which they live. I hope they develop confidence and passion to act to influence the personal, social, political circumstances around them based on human values.

I know I am not alone in these hopes. I know that most educators are trying. I know most Americans share these hopes. I know that many of us are frustrated and angry that our common dreams for students’ futures are being thwarted. School systems are being diverted from what matters most by persistent inequity and racism, high-stakes testing, efforts to privatize and monetize education, and most recently by pandemic disruption of in-person learning.

I know this: Despite and in response to the challenges, all of us– not just educators and parents– must demand that teaching should focus on what matters most: empathy, ethics, and evidence. Those essential foci cut across all subject areas, all grades, and whether students are engaged at home or in school. Students may lose facts, concepts may fade, and skills may wither but they, like the rest of us, remember how we were treated. In the short term, that influences how, whether, and what students learn. More important, it influences how they will see one another and act as humans for a lifetime.

Realistically there is no way to stop the confirmation of Trump’s third nominee to the Supreme Court unless four Republicans defect. So far, only two have shown willingness to dissent.


Sanders Statement on SCOTUS Nomination

BURLINGTON, September 26 — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement on President Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court:

“President Trump and Senate Republicans have badly mismanaged a deadly pandemic for months. Now, in the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis, they are willing to ram through a Supreme Court nominee—within days—who will vote to destroy the Affordable Care Act, kick millions of Americans off their health care, and eliminate protections for millions more who have preexisting conditions. This is an absolute outrage.

“The American people will not stand for this cynical effort to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, just days before an election, with someone who will roll back basic protections for women, workers, voters, people of color, the LGBT community, and our environment. I strongly oppose this nomination and we must fight as hard as we can to ensure that this nominee is not confirmed.”

Donald Trump, stable genius, claims that Joe Biden is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, that is, when he’s not claiming that Biden is a tool of the “radical left.” Watch this conversation and make your own judgment. Ask yourself how Trump would fare without a script on a teleprompter. The film also serves to remind us of another Trump characteristic: He is utterly without empathy. He despises what he calls “losers.” It is impossible to forget the time he mocked a disabled journalist at one of his rallies. It’s easy to remember that he called John McCain a “loser” because he was a POW.

This is a most interesting unscripted discussion between Joe Biden and Ady Barkan.

Ady is a brilliant progressive activist who was a supporter of Sanders, Warren, and Medicare for all.

In 2016, he was stricken with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and is completely disabled. He is dying by the day.

He asks tough questions.

I recommend the conversation.

I just finished reading Michael Cohen’s new tell-all about his years as Donald Trump’s “fixer.” It is called Disloyal: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J. Trump. Quite a lot of the book consists of Cohen flaying himself for being a lackey who happily did Trump’s bidding, even when he knew that he was being asked to lie, cheat, or cover up for Trump’s misdeeds. He was a lawyer, and he showed no respect for the law. His job for Trump was to twist the law to benefit Trump and to silence those who claimed that Trump had wronged them.

There is a morbid fascination to the book. It confirms everything that Trump’s most rabid critics have said about him. He lies whenever it suits his purposes, and he expects his top executives to lie for him without hesitation. He is unscrupulous, amoral, cynical, and completely self-absorbed. Everyone else in the world is merely an instrument to advance his self-aggrandizement.

He despises the working people who constitute his base. He pretended to be a Christian to win over the evangelical leaders who met with him in Trump Tower and who blessed him with a “laying on of hands” ceremony; as soon as they left his presence, he ridiculed them. He has no religious beliefs whatever. He is obsessed with hating Obama; he even hired someone to impersonate Obama so he could pour out his wrath on the actor. Trump’s ticket to entry into politics was birtherism; he concocted a tale about sending investigators to Hawaii to determine whether Obama was an American citizen. He promised to release the findings. He never did. He claimed that Obama’s success in life was due solely to affirmative action, and hinted that Obama was a mediocre student. Meanwhile, he assigned Cohen the job of making sure that his own academic records from high school, college, and graduate school were never released.

When asked why he didn’t condemn the Saudi government for the murder of journalist Jamaal Khashoggi, Trump would say, “What the f— do I care? He shouldn’t have written what he did. He should have shut the f— up.” So much for freedom of the press.

Cohen spends much of the book explaining his attraction to Trump, whom he knew was a fraud. Trump demanded absolute and complete loyalty, and Cohen gave it to him, like a puppy dog. Cohen admitted that he was drawn to Trump’s outrageousness, his money, his power, his celebrity, his flair, and the excitement of being in a daily circus of chaos and drama. 

Cohen’s fascination with Trump is foreshadowed by his description of his adolescence. He grew up in an affluent suburb on Long Island in New York. His father was a refugee who became a doctor. Young Michael had no interest in school, other than to get by. What he liked best was hanging out at his uncle’s club in Brooklyn, El Caribe, which was a favorite of Mafia figures. They were tough and brazen. They carried guns. He admired their cool, their wealth, their power. He writes about an incident where a wise guy took off his bathing suit in the middle of the club’s swimming pool, which was crowded with women and children. The tough guys told the miscreant to put his suit on; he didn’t. Then one of them pulled a gun and shot him in his butt. Blood streaked the water. When the police arrived, nodody knew anything, no one saw it happen. Cohen relished, as a Trump executive, being armed, with a gun on his belt, another in an ankle holster. He says Trump too was armed.

We learn that Trump regularly ridicules Don Jr. in front of other people. He thinks Don Jr. is a fool and a loser. Don Jr. takes his father’s insults and put-downs with silence; he is used to his scorn. Tiffany, the only child of Marla Maples, is treated by her half-siblings as an outsider. Jared is an arrogant snob. Cohen says that Trump’s first campaign manager in 2016, Corey Lewandowski, was a drunk and was having an affair with Hope Hicks. 

Trump is very boastful about his sexual prowess. He thinks that he can have any woman he wants. Cohen recalls a day when he took his family to swim at Trump’s New Jersey golf club. Trump spotted a young woman on one of his tennis courts and said, “Look at that piece of ass. I would love some of that.” Cohen was mortified. It was his 15-year-old daughter. Cohen was too supine to object. 

If you enjoy hearing tales of how Trump managed to trick others and stiff the little guys, you will find much to enjoy. For Trump, the “art of the deal” consisted of cleverly cheating people of millions of dollars. Contractors and subcontractors who worked on Trump properties were lucky to get 20% of what Trump owed them. Anyone who threatened to sue him was threatened with a countersuit that would bankrupt them. Who wants to be sued by a billionaire with deep pockets?

Michael Cohen is in prison. It is hard to feel sorry for him. He chose his fate. As a young man, he admired gangsters, and he loved being in the company of ruthless thugs. In Trump-world, he found the environment in which he flourished, providing the muscle and threats to compel people to back off when Trump cheated them.

He is less interesting than the mega-star in whose orbit he lived: a liar, a con man, a cheat, a narcissist, a man with no ethics or morality or conscience. Trump attracted moths to his flame, and Cohen got burned.